Inventory Control: Coin List Details are Important for Estates

Maintaining a detailed inventory list of your collection, including buying history and current values, will assist in the preparation of your numismatic estate while you are still actively collecting.

This 1895 Morgan dollar graded Proof 65 Cameo by Professional Coin Grading Service realized nearly $100,000 in a Jan. 10 sale by Heritage Auctions. If this coin is not on your list, there’s no guarantee it will go where you want it to go.

If you plan how to handle your more traditional investments in your estate, why not do the same with your collections?

As a collector, you intimately know your collections. But the likely situation is that your heirs do not.

An inventory is essential for a collector who wants to document his or her collections, and is the most useful thing a spouse or heir can have when trying to address your collections in your absence.

The inventory is easy to do and can be done on a computer or handwritten. The most important thing is that it exists and your heirs know where to find it.

I recently chatted with a collector who devised an elegant and orderly system. He had a well-conceived insurance appraisal that listed and described each object of value in his home, included a picture for high value items, noted the location of it grouped by rooms and listed where and when he purchased it and the current market value.

It was not an exhaustive list, but was enough for a non-collector to identify the item and for a numismatist to get the information needed to assess value.

For a numismatist, this list should separate coins kept in a drawer in the study, from those hidden under the bed, from those in the safe deposit box. As a preliminary point, you want your heirs to be able to find your collection in your absence.

The well-prepared collector wrote a letter to his family in which he listed several auction house specialists and dealers who helped him form his collection, their contact information and their areas of specialty so the family would have a reference on how and who to contact.

But, remember that an authoritative document like this should be kept in a secure place to prevent a thief from using it as a road map. Unless your collection is kept in a bank, then it is smart to separate the documentation from the collection.

An inventory is an easy, preliminary step to make your collection be a blessing to your heirs rather than a burden.

To many collectors, estate planning is an unnatural and uneasy process as it reminds us of our mortality and forces a sequence of challenging decisions with lasting consequences.

However, planning for what will happen to your collection will undoubtedly save your heirs headaches and will allow you as a collector to determine the ultimate legacy that your collection will leave.

Steve Roach is the editor of Coin World, the world’s leading resource for coin and paper money collectors. Each week, Coin World informs, educates and entertains collectors pursuing their passion for numismatics. To learn more or subscribe, visit


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